What’s the best the Bears can expect from QB Mitch Trubisky in the next 4 games?
As they hit a soft spot in the schedule over the next four games, the Bears need Mitch Trubisky to feast on poor pass defenses. Can he do it?
If Mitch Trubisky is ever going to be a functional quarterback for the Bears, this is the time.
Their playoff hopes are teetering going into a home game against the Lions on Sunday, but they’re far from dead. There’s still a path to at least nine wins and a postseason berth, and it hinges on Trubisky.
Reinstalled as the starter, he will face four consecutive defenses that currently rank 23rd or worse in points allowed and no better than 25th in opponent passer rating: the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars. None of those teams has a top-10 offense, either, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep up.
The Lions have allowed the fourth-most yards per attempt this season (7.9) and have the eighth-fewest interceptions (seven) and sixth-fewest sacks (16). It’s no wonder Trubisky and many other quarterbacks have had some of their best games against them.
Trubisky always has feasted on teams like the ones he’s about to face, making this an ideal opportunity to lift the Bears and boost his stock heading into 2021 free agency. He has made 18 starts against teams that finished the season in the bottom 10 in opponent passer rating or are currently there this season, completing 67.7% of his passes, averaging 231.4 yards per game and throwing for 31 touchdowns against nine interceptions for a 103.2 passer rating. The Bears, who went 13-5 in those games, wouldn’t be crazy to expect something close to that from Trubisky over the next four games.
The problem is his other 27 starts — the ones against teams that don’t have pitiful pass defenses. In those games, he has 26 TDs, 25 interceptions and a 74.7 passer rating.
The circumstances surrounding Tru-bisky’s return as the starter last Sunday at Green Bay weren’t ideal, but his upcoming challenge is much more favorable. The Bears appear to have figured out a better combination on the offensive line, and Trubisky will likely be more comfortable in his second start than his first. And while the Packers aren’t an overwhelming defense, they’re significantly tougher than the ones he’ll face next.
Bears coach Matt Nagy believes strongly enough in all of this to bet his playoff chances — and future employment — on Trubisky as the starter. Nick Foles’ hip injury on Nov. 16 opened the door for the change, but it’s a performance-based move. If it were about health, and if Foles had been playing well, he’d be starting Sunday.
“I’m not gonna get into any of those what-ifs with that,” Nagy said. “We’re focused right now on doing everything we can to [beat] Detroit. Nick was not ready [against the Packers]. Mitch was ready. And that’s how we attacked that.”
But they’re both ready now. Foles was a full participant in practice Thursday and Friday — and yet the Bears are sticking with Trubisky. Nagy isn’t convinced he can save the Bears, but he believes he can at least be better than Foles, who had a 79.6 passer rating over seven starts. While Nagy dragged out the quarterback decision last week, he came right out of the Packers game saying Trubisky would get the next start.
Retracing the Bears’ steps starting in March: They made a costly trade thinking Foles could be their starter. They decided Trubisky beat him out in the preseason. They reversed that decision three weeks later. And then they shelved Foles with five games left and the season on the line.
“Nick came in, and there were some times that we moved the ball and we did well, but ultimately we weren’t winning as much,” Nagy said. “Here we are, and Mitch is back at it. . . . That is where we’re at, and we want to work towards his strengths.”
It’s not a great plan, but the next four opponents’ defenses are bad enough that it might just work.